System reform can lead to ensuring job opportunities

It is hoped that opportunities to work will be increased for persons with disabilities as well, according to each person’s abilities and attributes.

The Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry’s Labor Policy Council has compiled a report calling for the central government to add part-time workers to the calculation of the employment rates for persons with disabilities, figures for which the central and local governments as well as companies are required to reach certain percentages.

Under the law for employment promotion of persons with disabilities, companies above a certain size need to meet a quota of hiring disabled persons who work 20 hours or more a week for at least 2.3% of the workforce. Companies that fail to reach this level have to pay a levy.

The council has proposed that disabled employees who work 10-20 hours a week also be included in the calculation of the legally required employment rate.

There are many people who say their condition is the reason why they cannot work long hours, but if part-time work is available, they can do it. However, some companies are reluctant to recruit persons with disabilities for shorter hours because even if firms hire such workers, they do not count for the statutory employment rates.

Preventing such mismatches between companies and the disabled is significant. It is crucial to create an environment in which more persons with disabilities can work.

The government is considering revising the law during the next Diet session. It intends to allow not only companies but also government entities to include part-time workers when calculating their disability employment rates.

In regard to part-time work, a remaining issue is the difficulty for disabled persons to earn a sufficient income. In designing a system, the government should consider a scheme that will allow disabled employees to flexibly extend working hours if they wish.

According to a survey by the labor ministry, 53% of companies subject to the law have failed to meet the statutory employment rate. While some companies take the easy way out by not hiring persons with disabilities and simply paying the levy, many others may find it difficult to employ such workers depending on the nature of their businesses, even though they want to do so.

The ministry has set up a system to dispatch to companies personnel of social welfare corporations, so-called job coaches who serve as a bridge between companies and persons with disabilities. These job coaches play the role of managing the condition of disabled workers as well as giving companies advice to improve their working environment.

There is also a national system in which small and midsize businesses that actively hire disabled workers are recognized as excellent companies and entitled to government support for recruiting and other such activities.

It is important to expand these efforts and steadily increase the number of companies that can achieve the mandatory disabled employment rate.

The desired aim is to realize an inclusive society that will provide everyone willing to work with an opportunity to do so.

In 2018, many central government entities were found to have inflated and improperly recorded their disabled employee numbers. These are serious offenses for these entities, which are in the position to take the lead in employing the disabled, to pad their numbers.

The government must shape up and operate the system properly.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, July 17, 2022)